Some horse players have access to a very important handicapping tool and don’t even know it.
It’s common sense. Common sense is underrated. It doesn’t come naturally. Common sense is the application of simple thought pertaining to what’s right in front of you. At the horse race track, a modicum of intelligent reasoning that can be projected as common sense can come in handy when confronted by maiden races, cheaper the better. The stupider you are, the less common sense you have to call upon. But there’s hope. You can learn a little something now and again. Many horse players fear maiden races, the cheaper the more terrifying, as they are perceived to be staging grounds for behind-the-barn Psssssts! and shenanigans to follow. But under the right circumstances, a maiden claiming race can offer what should be one of the goals of all decent horse players, a race comprised of a group of animals that probably won’t win, going off at short prices. People will bet anything, which is good for those who won’t. People will bet first-timers at a route, which win what, one half of one third of one percent of the time? A first-timer running a route is like a trail ride, a supervised outing for new kids on the block. Common sense dictates that if workouts are all you have to go on, beyond breeding and connections, you must give these practice periods due consideration, more than a swig and a yawn. Lots of what you see with inexpensive claimers is a series of five or six three-furlong works prior to a six-furlong race. It stands to reason that works approaching the distance of a horse’s first race are more beneficial than glorified gate practice. Here’s how the legal minimum daily requirement of common sense can find a double-digit winner. Charlestown is the home of short maiden claiming races, four-and-a-half furlong whooshes down a drag strip back side, hang a quick left and lunge for the wire. The universal mindset that goes with races like this has to do with the playing of post positions, forget the outside, take the most speed on the inside half, box them, even, and go get in line to collect. But with inexpensive maiden claiming races, here’s what’s much more important that the post: the quality of the field. Some maiden claiming races at four and a half furlongs, I could win on foot with a 50-yard spot. You’re going to claim a first-timer in a cheap claimer? Neither am I. The point being, sometimes you, as the connections, have a free claiming race on which to collect. Sometimes the field is so bad, the first-time runner has to be as good as the rest of the stuff. Sometimes four-furlong workout speed from the 10-post position has to be swifter than anything inside. Actually, if any ten horse in a mini-sprint has some quickness, that’s not a bad place to be. There’s no company. If you can get the lead and get over by the turn, it’s downhill from there. Money bet on a cheap maiden race is impossible to ignore. If one first-timer goes from 15-1 to 7-5 on the last tick, and wins, you’ll recall it more vividly than the 100 that caught “smart money” and ran unintelligently. At the lower claiming levels, late money isn’t so much “smart money” as it is “unexplained money.” If anybody truly knew anything, they’d be in Aruba, not freezing to death in a barn. There’s nothing that could be construed as “smart” when it comes to a trainer who is 1 for 30. A classic bad maiden field is a gift. It is headed by a bad favorite and flanked by bad contenders. A bad favorite at four and a half furlongs is one who has had the opportunity to win at a good price, and has quit four or five times, same as always. A bad contender at four and a half is one who is gate late and closes hard consistently for third or fourth. The other evening at Charlestown, the odds on a maiden claiming race almost went up the scale from the inside, out. Quarter horses run one-turn races around a half a mile in length all the time. Average inside speed looks like an amateur surfer in a pipeline and is usually swamped. The 10 in this instance at C-Town, a first-time starter with works of more than three furlongs, popped from the gate, cleared the field by two, hung a sharp left, and coasted home to win by broad moonlight, paying $22 on the victory, $130 on the exacta with one of the least offensive quitters. It’s when common sense turns uncommon.
Originally Posted on ESPN